Friday, October 21, 2005
Great Rivers Executive Minister and an "Abiding Sense of Loss"
Great Rivers Executive Minister, Dwight Stinnett, a blogger who attempts to speak for American Baptists in the "middle," and who announces that he is unaffiliated "with any advocacy group," posted an interesting blog today. He dealt with a report received by the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA from its Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church. The Presbyterian group entitled their effort simply "Peace Unity Purity." Readers of His Barking Dog can download the full report at http://www.pcusa.org/peaceunitypurity .
Quoting the Presbyterians, Dr. Stinnett writes,
"While the Task Force worked hard and honestly, they did not overcome our differences and reach agreement on all the issues.They did note that the most serious disagreements were not over biblical interpretation per se, but focus on what constitutes faithful pastoral application of scriptural teaching or on which passages of Scripture are relevant to a particular question."
His final paragraphs are worth citing in full:
"Perhaps most challenging for us of Baptist persuasion is the conclusion: Truth, holiness, and righteousness matter as pathways to discipleship, in both the life of the church as a body and in the lives of its members. Ultimately, the church cannot simply agree to disagree on important matters of faith and practice. Church polity must provide ways for serious disagreements to be resolved. But resolution by merely technical or legal means will not endure because it does not address the conflict of convictions that gave rise to the disagreements in the first place. Only a resolution with theological integrity can be sustained.
Elsewhere they speak of a church both preoccupied with and weary of conflict. That certainly rings true for me in ABCUSA. While some are openly encouraged by certain departures or disengagements, and chastise those who leave "in a huff," I suspect many more are leaving and disengaging because of fatigue and discouragement. They are not angry or self-righteous; they are in great pain and have an abiding sense of loss."
Well said, Dr. Stinnett. Yesterday I met with a group of ABC pastors in the PSW. When the question arose as to how one of the leaders of the "leave now" faction "felt" about the impending breakup of the ABCUSA, he said simply and quietly: "I feel loss and an immense sense of sadness." In one of my communications with a well placed ABC blogger on the left, he wrote to me yesterday: "I am coming to agree with you that it may be time to bless each other's ministries and move on."
The direction being taken by Dr. Medley and the architects of "Baptists are autonomous so we cannot enforcece any boundaries" will likely lead to the division of organizations, if not full fellowship, among the people called American Baptists. The grand experiment in Baptist life which survived schisms in the past over justice issues (i.e., slavery) and creeds (i.e., 1940s) totters precariously an the edge of a new precipice. The most ethnically diverse and inclusive Protestant body in the United States, the one with arguably the proudest tradition of "ahead of the curve missiology," stands ready to jump off the cliff because it does not know how to say the words, "The Bible says," and mean it.
Some of us used to be angry and conflicted. Now we are just tired and profoundly sad.
[These opinions represent only the ideas of the blogger and do not purport to speak for any person, position, or power within the PSW]